The Cheapside Hoard….London’s Lost Jewels
Finally last week I managed to schedule a visit to the London Museum’s exhibition of the Cheapside Hoard.
For the first time ever the hoard could be viewed in one location. The exhibition was timed to coincide with the one hundredth anniversary of the hoard’s first public showing.
The history of the hoard and its subsequent loss in the cellar of premises in Cheapside is open to discussion. It is likely to be the stock of a goldsmith, Cheapside being the area for gold smithing during the Elizabethan and Stuart period. Its modern history dates to 1912 when a gang of labourers in the City of London unearthed the cache of gemstones and jewels. It is thanks however to the legendary figure of Stony Jack (George Fabian Lawrence) who, with his familiarity of the City navvies (and the public houses they frequented), was able to retrieve the hoard.
The current exhibition begins with the history of gold smithing in the City, with a representation of a Stuart period workshop. Many of the tools on display would be familiar to the goldsmiths of today.
Displays of chests, similar to which the jewels had been found in, Grimm’s illustration of the coronation procession of Edward VI (1547) through Cheapside showing the goldsmiths’ windows full of treasure and displays of gold testing equipment complete the first section. If I hear someone say again “…that’s where the expression ‘up to scratch’ comes from” I shall go mad.
The exhibition follows around to reveal the main room with cabinets full of wonderful Elizabethan/Stuart period jewels.
My favourites; the enamel long chains, the salamander brooch and of course the emerald watch. The watch is set into a complete emerald crystal. No mean feat today let alone four hundred years ago!
Hazel Forsyth, Senior Curator of the Medieval and post-Medieval Collections at the Museum of London, must be congratulated on bringing together this incredible exhibition of the art of renaissance gold smithing in England in such an informative and interesting way.
I was very fortunate a few years ago to attend a private talk by Hazel at Goldsmiths Hall, I was Senior Valuer London Assay Office at the time. Hazel demonstrated the fantastic scope of items in the collection and the various analytic processes that were being used. It was a good insight into the steps that are involved and the effort that’s involved in putting on such an exhibition. Of particular interest was the scanned images of the Ferlite watch.
The exhibition ends on the 27th April 2014. I can do no more than heartily recommend a visit before the Cheapside Hoard is returned to its various homes.
I would also recommend purchasing Hazel’s wonderfully illustrated book of the exhibition.
UNTIL 27th April 2014